Welcome to theBad.net Lee Van Cleef Blog! Here you will find information, photos, videos, and some of my opinions of the badman himself.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Remembering Ennio Morricone

Today we lost Ennio Morricone, the legendary Italian composer who most famously collaborated with Sergio Leone on what would become known as the Dollars Trilogy.  Their partnership continued with Once Upon a Time in The West, Duck You Sucker!, and Once Upon a Time in America.

Of course Morricone's filmography does not end there.  Over the past six decades, Morricone has composed music for over 500 film and television projects.  Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, Morricone finally received his well deserved recognition in 2007 with an honorary Academy Award, as well as an Academy Award for his score to The Hateful Eight in 2016.

Below are a few of my favorite Morricone cues from his Spaghetti Western career.

"The Ecstasy of Gold" - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Second to the main title of the same film, this is one of Morricone's most famous pieces.  This classic drives the scene of Tuco searching Sad Hill for the grave of Arch Stanton.  Even 50 years after it's composition this piece is played nightly at the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, as well as the start of all Metallica concerts!

"l'Arena (The Arena)" - The Mercenary

The highlight of Sergio Corbucci's The Mercenary for me was the duel between Jack Palance and Tony Musante commanded by Franco Nero.  Palance owns the scene, but it is Morricone's score that elevates it to the level of greatness that exceeds the rest of the film.  Quentin Tarantino would seem to agree as he used this piece in Kill Bill.

"Morton" - Once Upon a Time in The West

While the above two cuts are a few of Morricone's more boisterous efforts (sopranos!, trumpets!  whistling!), it is often times his quieter themes that are most effective.  This simple track for the railroad tycoon villain, Mr. Morton, in Leone's masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in The West, makes us feel empathy for an otherwise despicable character, as he is slowly dying from tuberculosis while trying to reach the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Of course Morricone scored four great LVC films; For a Few Dollars More; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; The Big Gundown; and Death Rides a Horse.

The Maestro may be gone, but his music will live on forever!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Master - "The Good, the Bad, and the Priceless" Episode Photos

Courtesy of the Getty Images, below are some photos from the episode 8 of the LVC 1984 NBC series; The Master.

Click to enlarge!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Poughkeepsie Journal - Lee Van Cleef Was an Iconic presence

Larry Robinson, Special to Poughkeepsie Journal
Published Oct. 17, 2018

Veteran villain Lee Van Cleef was reportedly preparing to retire when he got a call from director Sergio Leone, offering him a plum role in "For a Few Dollars More," the second of Leone's trio of Man with No Name Westerns, starring Clint Eastwood.

The movies were international blockbusters, and while Eastwood made a triumphant return to Hollywood, Van Cleef stayed in Europe, becoming the most readily  recognizable Americano in the Spaghetti Western genre, along with Charles Bronson ("Il Brutto"!) and Jack Palance.

Many of the films Van Cleef made were low budget throwaways, like the truly terrible "The Grand Duel," with a plot that couldn't be unraveled by Agatha Christie. He did make a few good ones, like "The Big Gundown," with Walter Barnes, and the 1967 "Death Rides a Horse," an intense revenge oater directed in a no-nonsense manner by Giulio Petroni. He was no Leone, but he did have an eye for parched landscape and staging of gun duels.

I first saw Van Cleef as one of the Miller gang in "High Noon." In 1957 he got knifed by Kirk Douglas in "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and was later manhandled by the Duke himself, in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Van Cleef also made gangster movies, like Phil Karlson's excellent "Kansas City Confidential."

It's said that Van Cleef gave three directives to all his directors, even John Ford: He would not menace a child, kill an animal or murder a woman, no matter how evil his character. Except for his rough treatment of a dance hall hostess in Leone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," he pretty much stuck fast to his code of bad guy conduct.

In "Death Rides a Horse," Van Cleef is Ryan, an aging outlaw released from a brutal desert prison. He was left for posse bait by his very own gang, and now wants to say an unfriendly hello to those who betrayed him, and then escaped.

The film begins with a shocking massacre in a small ranch house, which Petroni lit only by flashes of gunfire and lightning, during a ferocious storm. The gang wants a payroll, though Ryan never draws his gun and, instead, runs outside to mind the horses.

A sole survivor of the slaughter is Bill (a laconic John Phillip Law) who grows into an expert with weaponry and a quick-draw whiz. Bill wants the same outlaws Ryan seeks, but also wants Ryan, as he can recognize him by a tattoo, and believes him one of the murderers. It's a stewpot of nitro, and director Petroni knows when and where to set it off.

While the rousing climax is a steal from "The Magnificent Seven," it's a terrific large-scale action sequence, with Ryan and Bill acting as very wary allies. I won't spoil the ending, but it's hardly a surprise. Petroni wisely confronts the clich├ęs in the genre without blinking.

Van Cleef always played "his age" so Ryan is a pipe-sucking father figure, dispensing gunfighter advice to the reckless Bill. With anything Van Cleef did there was always a "tension" created by his past villainous roles. We wonder — is he a "good/bad guy" or a "bad guy"? Van Cleef, by 1969, was an iconic presence, for sure!

I first saw "Death Rides a Horse" in a perfect setting: a fully packed Times Square "grindhouse" with a loud and quite happy male audience. Petroni knew he wasn't making a classic, but his movie is trim, taut and enjoyable.

Too bad Leone and Van Cleef never worked together again; with or without the Man with No Name.